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Exceptional snow falls in Yakutia lead to fears for children - and horses

By The Siberian Times reporter
07 November 2016

Overhead high voltage cables at touching level for children, foals are slaughtered because mares too weak to feed them.

Yakut horses, the most resilient on the planet, have found it impossible to forage for food under the excessive falls. Picture: Ykt.ru

It feels like the latest manifestation of climate change in Siberia: huge falls of early snow not seen in more than a generation. In many areas the level of snow is two or three metres higher than usual. 

Districts like Abyisky and Srednekolymsky have faced five months of snow in just four weeks.

Yakut horses, the most resilient on the planet, have found it impossible to forage for food under the excessive falls. Reindeer, too, are suffering in the coldest region of Russia. 

Low cables


Low cables


Low cables

Acute danger to children from hight voltage cables hanging low over the snow. Pictures: Social media

High voltage electricity cables in remote villages are now are almost ground level so deep is the snowfall compounded by drifting. In remote villages, this leads to acute dangers to children.

Many homes have outside toilets, but accessing them is only possible after clearing the deep snow.

A local in Abyisky district wrote on social media: 'People are tired of fighting with the snow. For the elderly, it is difficult even to get to the toilet. The doctor is on vacation, the only paramedic injured her leg and cannot walk to visit her patients. When relief will come is not known.'

Loo

Many homes have outside toilets, but accessing them is only possible after clearing the deep snow. Picture: Social media

The early falls stopped locals getting supplies of hay in time to horses, and in many areas the 'winter roads' - ice-covered rivers and lakes - are not sufficiently frozen under deep snow to be safe. 

In these dire circumstances, younger horses are being slaughtered because they would anyway die from starvation.

Head of Srednekolymsky district, Evgeny Sleptsov, said: 'We will have to take extreme measures - the slaughter of young animals, because in such circumstances they will not anyway survive. 

'The mares are too exhausted when trying to feed their foals. So now we are separating the foals from their mothers.' 

Horse


cow

In these dire circumstances, younger horses are being slaughtered because they would anyway die from starvation. Pictures: Ykt.ru, Social media

He asked for returning 'vegetable flights' - which bring in vegetables to northern districts of Yakutia, also known as Sakha Republic - to carry horse meat to regional capital Yakutsk for sale. 

The regions agriculture ministry is seeking to identify pastures to which herds can be moved. 

The head of the region Egor Borisov this month ordered that residents of Abyisky and Srednekolymsky district who are forced to slaughter foals due to heavy snow should receive new foals as compensation, instead of money. 'The exchange should be equivalent,' he said. 

A description of the problems is highlighted by this report from Use-Yansky district.

Snowdrifts


Snowdrifts


Snowdrifts

'There have always been snowstorms in the north, but not so much at this time of year.' Pictures: Social media

'The snow has not stopped for a month. There were no ordinary autumn frosts in the tundra, snow just started immediately. Snow safely covered like a warm blanket all the lakes and rivers, but they had no time to freeze.

'People in the tundra using snowmobiles simply sink into the water. The fate of many horses is not known. What are they doing, how are they managing to eat grass under the icy snow?

Snowdrifts


Snowdrifts

Experts say that another problem will arise from this in the spring when the extra snow starts to melt. Pictures: Social media, Lyubov Zalina

'This is without talking about (the fate of) reindeer. There have always been snowstorms in the north, but not so much at this time of year.'

Experts say that another problem will arise from this in the spring when the extra snow starts to melt. 

Villages along many rivers are vulnerable to flooding, said Vera Samsonova, research fellow at the Institute of Permafrost, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science. 

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